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Asking for a Raise – Make Sure the Numbers Make Sense

Asking for a raise at review time or anytime requires careful thought and consideration. Walk into the meeting with a random number in your mind, and you could be caught off guard with follow-up questions that you can’t answer. Determine a raise amount thoughtfully by considering these three tips:

Dollars and Percentages

If your plan is to provide a straight dollar amount, what percentage raise does that amount represent? If you plan to request a percentage increase, what does that look like in dollars? Any number by itself won't tell the whole story and could inadvertently nudge the decision maker to consider that isolated number through his or her own filter. For example, a 10% raise might seem reasonable to your situation, but if you are highly compensated, the dollar amount may seem high. You don't want one of the people in the approval process thinking, “what does someone making $200,000 need another $20,000 for?” Of course the opposite is true; $10,000 over the course of a year may not be that much to some folks, unless you make $50k then it is 20% of your income. Make sure that both the dollar amount and the percentage increase make sense together and are presented at the same time.

The Psychology of Numbers

There are a lot of thoughts and feeling behind numbers and how people perceive them. Odd numbers are often more impactful; when we see an odd number we think it means something. Conversely even numbers seem to be arbitrary, made up, or at least open for negotiation - has anyone ever paid $40,000 even for a car? Thinking about the first tip, determine your number and percentage, then tweak it to be an odd number. A few dollars/percentage points up or down won’t mean a big difference in your take-home pay, but the odd number could work in your favor.

Be Prepared to Defend the Number

At any time during the process, be confident explaining the thought behind your request and prepared to address any objections. Think about your contributions and why you deserve a raise, and explain them in a way that will make sense to the decision makers. Point to areas where you have outperformed, gone above and beyond and consistently earned "exceed expectations" on reviews – this will make for a straightforward conversation. While opinions may differ on whether longevity warrants a raise, I feel it does. If you are a good, consistent employee, you add value to the company. Your institutional knowledge and reliable contributions make you an asset. If your boss doesn’t have to worry about your area, then you are making her life easier and the company overall better. A realistic raise request will allow you to continue to be engaged and consistent in your work; a knowledgeable and fair employer gets that.

When negotiating a raise, whatever your reasons and whatever your amount, make sure your numbers are specific and your rationale is compelling and defensible.

Photo Credit: Futurity